Watch out Google. Facebook has finally upped its search game with Graph Search, a feature that will allow the social network’s one billion-plus users to sort through information shared by their friends to answer simple and sophisticated queries alike.
The tool, which entered beta Jan. 15, will initially be tested on a small group of the network’s English-speaking members. But, if Graph Search catches on, it could become a serious competitor for other search engines, such as longtime rival Google, as well as for rating services.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Graph Search at a much-anticipated press conference at the company’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif, Jan. 15.
“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in awhile,” Zuckerberg said.
Graph Search is very different from a traditional web search. While web search offers generic results based on the searcher’s keywords, Graph Search combines user’s phrases to give personalized results.
For instance, using Graph Search, a user can type in queries like: NFL fans who live nearby? Photos of Melbourne, Australia? Friends who live in New York? Good Italian restaurants in Chicago? and get answers based on is or her social circle.
“Most people today don’t think of Facebook as a place where they can discover places to go eat or things to go do, but with this product, it is so natural to be able to do that,” Zuckerberg said. “Today we’re starting off with a few basic types of things you can search for: people, photos, places, pages for businesses and that’s just the start. We view this as a product we will be working on for years and years to come and, as it gets more complete, it is going to be this amazing resource for a lot of people around the world to use.”
Although Graph Search is far from complete, it was released to obtain user feedback so improvements can be made, Zuckerberg said.
Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. When a user makes a query, that search not only determines the set of results, but also serves as a title for the page. Users can edit the title to create their own custom view of the content they and their friends have shared on Facebook.
Graph Search also keeps user privacy in mind, according to a Facebook press release. While the feature makes finding new things easier, Graph Search follows users’ current privacy settings, meaning users can only search for content that has been shared with them or is public.
Interests is another key component targeted by Graph Search. Users can type in queries like: music my friends like? movies liked by people who like movies I like? strategy games played by friends of my friends? movies liked by people who are film directors? and so on.
Graph Search also has the potential to help users meet other Facebook members with similar interests, said Facebook engineering director Lars Rasmussen.
“Facebook in the past has been primarily about mapping out, staying in touch with and communicating with the people you already know in the real world, but now we’re building a product that can also be used to find people you should know, people with common interests or people you want to work with.”
To get on the Graph Search waiting list, go to www.facebook.com/graphsearch.